Last night was Pepcom's Digital Experience, an event where selected vendors fill up a ballroom, and press wander around in a nice contained environment. It's one of my two favorite events at CES, the other being Showstoppers, which is tonight. Both are similar, and which is better depends (to some degree) on what vendors are there. That aside, I generally prefer Showstoppers -- it's better organized, doesn't have silly "themes" but is more professional, and has much better buffet food. (Hey, what can I say, I love buffets...)
This year, Pepcom had excellent vendors and a LOT of them, more than usually. They also significantly upgraded their food. But they still had their stupid "themes." This year it was "The Wonderful Gizmos of Oz," and had people dressed up as characters from the movie wandering throughout, and they were playing the movie on a huge screen -- and at one point (the tornado scene) the sound was no numbingly loud, it was hard to hear who you were talking to.
Far better use of the massive screen would have been to show the National Championship college football game. That was limited to one vendor who had it on a little monitor at their booth, which was jammed with people the last couple minutes of the game. (Yes, I was watching.)
I have disappointingly missed the National Championship for the past decade or so. It unfortunately falls on the night of either Pepcom or Showstoppers. How bizarre to be in Las Vegas and never get to see the game. I do get to see the first quarter, since the game begins before the CES event starts, and it's impossible to walk through a Las Vegas casino and not see a monitor playing it, wherever your head turns. You don't even have to look -- you can simply listen for the cheering and groans which permeate the air. In the past, when the game has fallen on the night of Showstoppers, they have thoughtfully rented a MASSIVE four-sided screen that hovers above, hanging down from the ceiling. Though you can't hear the announcers, you can look up throughout the evening and see what's going on. Pepcom had their big screen showing "The Wizard of Oz." Swell...
I'm rushing a bit, trying to get some work done in the press room before they open the doors for the first day of CES, but I'll try to get down some random notes I took from Pepcom last night. I won't attempt to make any rhyme or reason or order from it, just give a sense of some of what was there.
One of the cleverest items was the Doorbot. It was a device you install outside your front door (no wiring involved, just screw it into the wall). It has a button and a video camera. Then, when someone pushes the button to ring, it dials your cell phone, and when you answer, you can see who's outside and have a video chat with them. Even if you're away from home, you can see whoever is at your door and rang, and talk with them. It requires an app, and right now works with iOS and Android, though a Windows app is on the way. It retails for $199.
I also saw Lenovo's upcoming 10" Miix 2 Windows tablet. I'm currently testing their 8" model, which I like in many ways, but it's too small to take advantage of being a Windows tablet. That advantage is Windows tablets being productivity-based, and you can do actual, serious work on them. But the 8" is too small for work typing. The 10", however, was terrific -- and it comes with a keyboard cover. If you have big, chubby fingers, it might be a tight fit, but they also have an 11" model which was not an issue at all for big fingers. The prices for 32 GB models were very good (around $499 and $599), though 32 GB is a bit small. No info yet on 64 GB or larger models.
Zagg, which makes excellent portable keyboards and screen protector covers among other things, was introducing a tiny external speaker you can keep on your keychain. It didn't look like the sound would be all that great, though would likely be improved from what comes from a cell phone, and it's incredibly convenient.
However, one of my fave companies, X-Mini (which makes great, portable speakers) was introducing their own tiny speaker, the Me -- they call it a personal speaker, intended only for one person, not to fill a room, and it's the size of your thumb! And the sound, though not nearly up to the level of their tennis-ball-sized speakers, was very impressive for something that tiny. It retails for $39.
The two strangest products I saw were opposites of each other in potential use. One, the Navia from Induct, is an electric tram that looks like a big golf cart seating about 10 people that is (are you ready) -- driverless and automated! You can set a route for it, which it will follow and in answer to my question, yes, it does have a sensor for things that might get in its path, like...oh, little children and dogs. I'm not quite sure of its huge utility -- after all, the cost of a driver would seem to offset the cost of insurance or a lawsuit. But still, it was fascinating, but odd. The odder one at the other end of the spectrum is the iGrow -- a stupid-looking helmet you put on your head (after having used their special formula hair conditioner) that supposedly helps you grow your hair. No, really...
Lots of interesting chargers (I love portable chargers, what can I say?), many of which are now employing new "smart charging." Chargers work at different levels, since all devices are configured differently, which is why they tend to charge more slowly under different conditions, like when plugged into the USB port on a computer. With smart charging, the chargers now can determine the device and configure their charging appropriately and do so faster. Supposedly. I haven't tested any yet, though saw devices like this from myCharge (a company I like) and Anker, who I just met.
And it's just bizarre how small companies can now make external drives. Seagate has one model of their Backup Plus that about the size of three cigarette packs which can store an amazing 4 Terrabytes. It uses two 2 TB drives that are USB 3.0 (a faster protocol), and this in turn makes it faster still, writing at 220 MB/second.
There was a lot more, but for now, this wil
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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